Aug. 18, 2009 -- Americans aged 65 and older are becoming more likely to survive the first month after hospitalization for a heart attack.
That's according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Data came from more than 2.7 million people aged 65 and older who were admitted to more than 4,000 U.S. hospitals for heart attack treatment between 1995 and 2006. During those years, a national effort was made to improve heart attack care at hospitals.
The odds of dying in the first 30 days after heart attack survivors were admitted to the hospital improved during the study period.
For instance, 18.9% of heart attack survivors aged 65 and older died from any cause in the first 30 days after being admitted to the hospital in 1995, compared to 16.1% in 2006. In 1995, 14.6% of heart attack patients died in the hospital; in 2006, about 10% died in the hospital.
It's not that the patients were healthier in recent years. In fact, they were more likely than earlier heart attack survivors to have conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and previous history of heart attacks.
Hospitals across the board, in terms of their quality of care, showed improvement in survival rates for heart attack survivors.
The study doesn't show exactly why death rates dropped for heart attack survivors, and the findings only apply to heart attack patients 65 and older, note the researchers, who included Harlan Krumholz, MD, SM, of the cardiovascular medicine section of Yale University's medical school.